Mixdown's 2018 Christmas Gift Guide: Headphones

Festive Bargains

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The nights are getting warmer, Michael Buble is hitting the charts, and musicians are bracing themselves for a month of ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ covers. With Christmas almost upon us, it’s time to start searching stores for the ultimate present to give, which isn’t always an easy task. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with our Christmas Gift Guide to help you find the perfect gift for the musicians in your life.

Mackie CR-Buds

 

Distributed by: Amber Technology

Expect to Pay: $89

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

These wouldn’t go astray as a gift to any music lover or traveller.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The CR-Buds Series includes the CR-Buds and the CR-Buds+ designed to deliver balanced sound, but not as clinical as monitoring headphones. These are earphones that are great for enjoying music, TV shows and podcasts.

 

USABILITY:

While the CR-Buds are designed to be everyday earphones for a great music experience, they can also be used to check professional mixes and reference tracks (whether you’re in the studio or on the go).

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The headphones are well constructed and the handy carry bag will keep them safe when they’re not being used. The earphones provide great isolation and the 120cm tangle-free cable will keep you focused on your music and stay out of your way while answering calls with the answer, play and pause buttons.

 

OVERALL:

Musicians and audiophiles alike have forever sacrificed audio quality to be able to listen to music on the move. Expensive headphones sound great, but they’re not the ideal product to be thrown around, and cheaper headphones don’t sound as good. Mackie has faced the same issues and produced a set of headphones that deliver studio quality sound in the Mackie CR-Buds.

 

 

Mackie MP-120 In-Ear Monitors

 

Distributed by: Amber Technology

Expect to Pay: $219

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Regularly gigging musicians looking for sonic clarity in their live mixes.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Like most Mackie equipment, the MP-120 In-Ears offer only the highest quality sonic response, providing a perfect balance of crisp highs and an enhanced low-end response to satisfy even the heaviest of bass junkies.

 

USABILITY:

 I’ve always struggled with getting used to in-ear monitors on stage, but I found the Mackie MP-120s surprisingly comfortable. I certainly could notice the difference proper sound isolation makes to a gigging experience. Hard to find fault here.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

Mackie nailed it. As well as being extremely comfortable over long periods of time, the ergonomic construction of the MP-120s and their detachable braided audio cable feel incredibly rugged, and I loved that the unit included three different ear tips for the perfect fit. The hard case is also a winner.

 

OVERALL:

If you’re looking to get the most out of your mix when playing live, the Mackie MP-120 in ear monitors are going to be your best friend. The overall sound quality and ergonomic design of these units are extremely desirable for any live performer, and you’ll certainly notice the difference that proper sound isolation makes to your ears after a gig.

 

Sennheiser IE 40 PRO In-Ear Monitors

 

Distributed by: Sennheiser Australia

Expect to Pay: $179

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Any gigging musician.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The IE 40 PROs aren’t particularly versatile, but they do their job phenomenally. The mid and high frequency response is clear and defined, and the buds provide really good isolation for loud stages.

 

USABILITY:

They don’t provide much bottom end, but in a live situation you won’t need much because you’ll feel it. You’ll be left with crystal clear, in-ear monitoring of your own playing and whatever else you need to perform your very best.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The IE 40 PROs are well constructed, with fairly malleable cabling so you won’t be restricted on stage. The in-ears include spare parts just in case (in the handy case the headphones come with) and include a range of buds for different sized ears and maximum comfort.

 

OVERALL:

Overall, they’re a great middle-market in-ear monitoring solution. They’ll last, are already EQ’d, offer crystal clear sound, and will keep you confidently monitoring night after night on tour.

 

 

Audio Technica M20x/1.2m Headphones

 

Distributed by: Audio-Technica Australia

Expect to Pay: $99

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Those looking to invest in their first high-quality pair of monitoring headphones.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Audio-Technica are the understated dons of the headphone market, and the quality of the M20s goes the distance to prove this. The sound quality is perfectly balanced and the 40mm drivers provide an absolutely thumping low-end response, which I know many budding electronic and hip-hop producers will love.

 

USABILITY:

With both a ¼ and 1/8 adaptor jack included in the packaging, you’ll be able to use the Audio-Technica M20x 1.2m headphones for all kinds of music consumption, be it mixing, tracking, or just casual listening. I also really appreciated the shorter 1.2m cable – it was nice to not trip over excessive monitoring headphone cables for a change.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

Boasting a high-quality modern design with a comfortable headband and ear cushioning, the Audio-Technica M20x’s are certainly among some of the cosiest headphones that have ever adorned my noggin. The swivel cap design also makes storage a breeze.

 

OVERALL:

The phrase ‘bang for buck’ gets thrown around a lot in music tech reviews, but there’s absolutely no question that these headphones are worth every penny. The Audio-Technica M20x 1.2m monitoring headphones are the quintessential entry-level recording headphones, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

 

 

Vox amPhones

 

Distributed by: Yamaha Music Australia

Expect to Pay: $119

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Beginner to professional guitarists and bass players that need to practise at low levels without an amp.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

Coming in four models – AC30, Bass, Twin and Lead – the amPhones series offers a few different flavours, and covers our low-end friends too. The model names should give you a fair indication of the tones available with some tweaking – gain, tone, volume and effect.

 

USABILITY:

It's as easy as putting on a set of headphones and plugging in your guitar. The fact that they run on batteries means that you’re not restricted to any one spot.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

Well padded and still quite light, the amPhones don’t stray much from your typical headphone design, making them familiar and easy to operate. Vox have incorporated technology from one of the industry leaders in Audio-Technica, which adds some street cred to the overall package too.

 

OVERALL:

An interesting take on the portable/practice amp idea, the amPhones are great for those situations when volume isn’t an option. With two AA batteries lasting anywhere from seven to 16 hours, you’ll get plenty of time for jamming and the added benefit of being able to use them as normal headphones too. 

 

 

Sennheiser HD300 PRO Headphones

 

Distributed by: Sennheiser Australia

Expect to Pay: $369

 

RECOMMENDED FOR:

The Sennheiser HD 300 PRO headphones are an all-round monitoring solution for users of any level of experience.

 

SOUND/VERSATILITY:

The HD 300 PROs are uncompromising in their even, balanced response and their ability to reveal subtle problems in your mixes or performances that you wouldn’t hear any other way. If you can make a performance or mix sound great in these headphones, you need not worry about flaws popping up on different speaker systems.

 

USABILITY:

They provide especially good isolation and would be particularly good for monitoring in live situations, for artists to monitor their own performances while recording or for recording engineers monitoring takes in less-than-ideal environments.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The headphones are well-constructed and hardy, perfect for any situation they’re thrown into. This would make them especially good for live use as they can take a beating. The headphone’s replaceable cable features one short part of coiled cable, which allows for superior movement during use without the weight of an entirely coiled cable.

 

OVERALL:

The Sennhesier HD 300 PRO are a great solution for any kind of monitoring. They won’t be underappreciated in a Christmas stocking, even if the recipient already has a pair.

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